How to Show Your Dog You Love Them During Anxious Times

How to Show Your Dog You Love Them During Anxious Times

Wondering how to show your dog you love them when they are experiencing dog anxiety? Here are our tips for healthy, respectful affection with dogs.

One of the joys of having a pet is being able to show them, love. Many pet owners would say the best part of their day is snuggling up with their pooch on the couch, waking up to puppy kisses, or seeing their dog’s excited reaction when they pull out the leash for a walk. Whatever you might do to show your dog you love them, demonstrating your affection is a positive experience for both of you and makes life richer.

But what about a dog with anxiety? Dog anxiety plagues a lot of canine companions, and unfortunately, it can make it hard for owners to show their affection in traditional ways. Some dogs who are experiencing anxiety don’t like to be touched, or might even be a little aggressive if they feel afraid. But even the most anxious dog deserves love, so it’s important for owners to find workarounds and new ways to show love to their pets even in anxious times. If you want to know how to show your dog you love them, even when they are experiencing dog anxiety, here are our tips.

Let Your Dog Communicate His or Her Needs

The cardinal rule when it comes to how to show your dog you love them is let them lead the way. Within reason, allow your dog to set their own boundaries. One of the best things you can do for your dog is recognize that, like people, dogs are all different. They have different personalities, different ideas of comfort, and different needs when it comes to attention and affection. You might love your dog so much that you want them in your lap all day long, but Fido might prefer to spend the day outside. Sometimes, showing love to your dog means letting them go and putting their needs before yours.

Most dogs are excellent communicators if their owners are paying attention and can understand their animal’s body language. It’s usually best, especially with an anxious dog, to let them initiate contact for play and affection. If they tell you they want to do something else, such as go outside or lie in their dog bed, allow them to do so.

Sometimes Space Is the Best Affection

Dog anxiety often manifests itself as a need for space. If you’re curious about how to show your dog love when they’re feeling anxious, you might be surprised to learn that one of the most loving things you can do for your pet is to leave them alone.

A dog standing next to a window looking back

It’s important to pay close attention to the triggers and causes of your pet’s stress before giving them space. If a dog is experiencing separation stress, then leaving them by themselves will actually make their anxiety worse. But if your dog is overstimulated or triggered by too much affection and action, then space is exactly what they need.

Also remember that space can mean a lot of different things: your dog might need to be alone in their doggie safe space, or they might want to hang out in the same room with you but not be held or touched.

Most Dogs Don’t Enjoy Being Hugged

Humans show each other love and affection with hugs, so our dogs must love it, too, right? Actually, not so much. Dogs don’t tend to enjoy being hugged.

When you wrap your arms around your dog and squeeze, it sends them a message of domination and entrapment rather than affection. This may seem confusing to us, but it’s important to remember that dogs are different creatures with different needs. Even a dog who enjoys a lot of physical affection – such as patting, scratching, rubbing, and even sitting in your lap – might not enjoy being enclosed in a set of strong arms. If you want to show your dog you love them, forgo the hug for another kind of physical affection that they are more likely to enjoy.

Don’t Ever Reward Naughty Behavior with Affection

Another way that dog anxiety can manifest itself is with aggression and negative behavior, such as snapping, biting, and chewing on furniture or other forbidden items. While we want to comfort our dogs and show them love, we need to find a way to communicate affection without encouraging bad behavior like this.

You should never punish a dog for these stress behaviors, but you shouldn’t provide positive reinforcement for those behaviors, either. Instead, try to redirect your dog to a more positive behavior. If they are being aggressive towards you by growling or mouthing, ignore the behavior and step away from your dog until they have calmed down. Later, when the behavior has stopped, provide them with the attention they were requesting. As long as they aren’t being immediately rewarded when they are aggressive, they won’t learn to associate that bad behavior with a positive outcome.

Typically, Dogs Will Only Want Affection in Short Windows

While a long, drawn-out cuddle session with your furry friend might sound like your idea of a dreamy afternoon, your dog likely has other ideas. Dogs don’t have the same attention spans as humans, and they will often only want affection in short bursts. Allow your dog to set their boundaries with this – some dogs will only tolerate pats and belly rubs for a few seconds, while others might enjoy it for several minutes.

Physical Touch Isn’t the Only Way to Show Your Dog Love

You may have heard about the five love languages – physical touch, gifts, acts of service, words, and quality time. This framework can actually help if you’re wondering how to show your dog you love them.

  • Physical touch is an obvious way to show your dog love, and this technique is often especially rewarding for pet owners. We want to show our dogs affection by petting and snuggling them, but that’s not going to be the best way to communicate our love to all dogs.
  • Some dogs will prefer quality time – throwing the ball with them outside or taking them on a walk or teaching them a new command.
  • Gifts, such as a special new toy or a particularly delicious dog treat, can also indicate love to some dogs.
  • Other dogs will receive your love best when you provide an act of service, such as grooming or giving them a bath.
  • Words, when delivered in the right tone, can also be a great way to show love to your dog – especially a dog with anxiety (more on that below).

Your Voice Can Assuage Dog Anxiety

Communicating verbally with your pet is a great way to show your dog you love them. While they might not exactly understand the words “I love you,” they do understand the tone of your voice and what is communicated by your body language while speaking. It’s not so much the content of the language when you’re loving your dog with words – it’s the comforting, soothing sound of your voice.

Especially for a dog with anxiety, communicating your love through words can be especially useful. If a dog is feeling nervous or scared, the comforting sound of their owner’s voice can be very effective in calming them down. You might even try singing to your dog or shushing them gently like you would with a human baby.

Tummy Rubs Are Only for Dogs Who Invite It

Like all types of physical affection, tummy rubs should only be reserved for dogs who willingly roll over and invite this kind of touch. Some dogs are very protective of their underside, and this boundary should be respected. When you show your dog you love them, you want it to feel good and make them feel safe and happy. No type of affection or love messaging should ever be forced or even coerced.

Some dogs will roll over submissively if you encourage them to, but they are still uncomfortable with it. Only rub the belly of a dog who rolls onto his back independently and seems to expect the rubs. Remember that not all dogs like the same kind of affection and their boundaries need to be respected.

Treats Can Be Used to Show Love in Healthy Amounts

A container of paw cbd cbd infused peanut butter 600 mg sitting next to dog treats shaped as bones

Be mindful when showing your love to your dog with treats or other food items. A healthy, dog-appropriate treat can be a wonderful way to communicate your affection as long as it fits within your dog’s daily calorie needs. There are certainly some overweight dogs who have ended up that way because their owners showed them too much love through treats and food. Diversify your strategies for how to show your dog you love them so that you aren’t relying on one way to demonstrate your affection.

Dog Anxiety Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Show Love to Your Pet

Now you know how to show your dog you love them even when they are experiencing dog anxiety. Affection might look different for different types of animals, but dogs with stress issues can definitely enjoy a lot of love if administered in the appropriate way. There are plentiful ways to communicate your love to your dog, and it’s important that you have more than one way to do so. Pay close attention to your dog’s body language so you understand the best ways to show them love and affection.